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Source: US CentCom.

24 Sept 07
By Spc. Nathan W. Hutchison
22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
.

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan — With the help of American and coalition forces, the Afghan national security forces are gradually earning the respect and acceptance of the Afghan people.

Embedded tactical trainers spend their days training and coaching Afghan national army and police how to conduct themselves during and outside operations.

“Our biggest job is showing ANSF what ‘right’ looks like,” said Army National Guard Maj. Chris P. Guziec, ANP ETT district commander. “We take what they think is right and mold it into something that is workable. This helps them better understand the steps to take and the reason for the changes.”

Guziec said this type of training requires flexibility for both groups, along with consideration for Afghanistan’s cultural and religious foundation.

“We are the ANP’s mentors; making sure they are being professional at their jobs and not exploiting their power,” explained Army National Guard Cpt. Jason E. Knueven, ANP ETT district team chief. With the mentoring, Knueven said he notices positive changes in the Afghan security forces in each of the missions he oversees.

The most recent mission involved the ANA and ANP securing several villages and searching houses based on intelligence gathered by coalition forces and ANSF.

“They were being professional at their job,” Knueven said. “They weren’t going in and stirring up the houses. The people took it really well because the ANSF was doing it the right way.”

American soldiers working with ANSF in operations and exercises also see improvement in their Afghan colleagues’ performance. “The local populace needs to be able to build that trust with its own military and police,” said Army 1st Lt. Brian M. Kitching, 2nd Platoon Leader, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “ANA and ANP working to catch the bad guys will do that. It’s a slow process and a gradual process, but I definitely see an improvement in the way they plan and execute missions and control their forces.”

But Kitching said the ANSF has to do more than catch bad guys to earn the trust and respect of the Afghan people. Afghan civilians need to know they can rely on their military and police to protect them, he said.

“The good people want the bad people out, too, but they have to trust the people searching their homes,” Kitching said.

Photo- An Afghan national army soldier checks an area of recently disturbed soil searching for possible hidden weapons or explosives during Operation Jam Morad, Sept. 12, in Ghazni Province. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan W. Hutchison.

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25 Aug 07
By Spc. Henry Selzer
173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALAGUSH, Afghanistan – Just like the people of the U.S., the people of Afghanistan are very proud of their independence, which means Aug. 19 is a date marked by celebration.

When the people of Nuristan province were invited to celebrate the U.S. independence on the Fourth of July with Soldiers here, the idea of holding an Afghan Independence Day celebration for the citizens of Nuristan was brought up. “It seems that the bigger more eventful celebrations are in the larger cities,” said Navy Cmdr. Samuel Paparo, 43, of Philadelphia, commander of the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team. “Holding a celebration out here for the people who can’t make it to the big celebration is our way of celebrating with them and to help connect them to their government.”

Afghans living in Nuristan were invited to the celebration where they were given a chance to interact with the Soldiers of the FOB and enjoy a variety of the local food, which was prepared by Army cooks. Not only did holding the Afghan Independence Day celebration give Soldiers a chance to interact with the people of Nuristan, it showed Afghans that Soldiers care about them and are here to support them.

“To[o] often when we see each other it is about business, but today is all about you and your independence,” said Army Lt. Col. Steve Maranian, 40, of Natick, Mass., and commander of 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, during the Afghan Independence Day celebration.

The celebration highlighted a common history the people of Afghanistan share with the United States. “We use the 4th of July to celebrate our independence from the British, and we wanted to take today to get together and help you celebrate your independence from the British,” said Paparo.

Today the U.K. along with the U.S., Afghan National Security Forces and many other multinational partners all work together toward the common goal of making sure the Afghan people can freely celebrate many more Independence days. “We are very glad that you accepted our invitation to celebrate your independence and share a meal together and hopefully we can do it again soon,” said Maranian.

Photo – An interpreter with the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team helps a town elder with his food during the Afghan Independence Day celebration on forward operating base Kalagush Aug. 19. Photo by Spc. Henry Selzer.

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This is little bit of progress we never hear about, and it is one of my favorite holidays. That is why I chose it for today’s Linkfest. If you are not already a member, just click on the blue icon above to join. You can also post your best (or funniest) work here. Just think about joining the Linkfest. It is really worth your time, and it is free. Thank you.

These are posts I’ve trackbacked to: Pirate’s Cove, Webloggin, The Pink Flamingo, Blog @ MoreWhat.com, The Bullwinkle Blog, Wake Up America, Conservative Cat, High Desert Wanderer, Leaning Straight Up, The Pink Flamingo, Committees of Correspondence, The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns and Big Dog’s Blog, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

These are people that trackbacked to this post:

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  • Webloggin: Perhaps Beauty Pageants Should Become a Thing of the Past.
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    23 Aug 07
    By Sgt. Brandon Aird
    173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team PAO
    .

    KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The first U.S. casualty from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan was Army Sgt. Jay Blessing, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Nov. 14, 2003. Blessing was in a convoy that was attacked just seven miles from camp in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

    United States and Afghan national security forces of the camp Blessing [who were?] failed to [be] reach that day started calling their camp, Camp Blessing to remember and honor the fallen Ranger. “He gave his life helping the Afghan people,” Collin Johnson, who served with Blessing, said at the time, “This will remind every Soldier that comes here of his sacrifice.”

    Four years later, Soldiers from 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based at the camp that bears his name now carry on Blessing’s hopes for a free Afghanistan. The once small outpost has expanded dramatically to become the base of operations for Task Force Bayonet.

    One constant, despite the changes, is that military personnel still drive the same road to Camp Blessing that was used four years ago. Keeping the road safe is even harder now than when Blessing’s convoy traveled it. Al-Qaida has influenced Taliban and other extremists in Afghanistan to use IED attacks against forces supporting the legitimate government of Afghanistan in more frequent numbers.

    Blessing was the only service member killed by an IED in 2003. In 2004, 12 members died from IED attacks. Eight months into 2007[,] IEDs have killed 45 military personnel, according to www.icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks these statistics closely.

    The numbers would be even higher if it wasn’t for a special group of people travelling the roads ahead of convoys to help reduce the threat and number of IEDs. The Route Clearance Package for Task Force Rock is from Alpha Company, Special Troops Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The RCP patrols the roads seven days a week searching for IEDs.

    The RCP is Task Force Rock’s first line of defense against IED attacks. The RCP clears roads to all of Task Force Rock’s forward operating bases and fire bases. On Aug. 15, the RCP cleared the road into Chowkay Valley, which has been a site of fighting for several years. Task Force Rock recently lost Army 1st Lt. Benjamin Hall, a platoon leader in Destined Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), during a fire fight in the valley July 31[, 2007].

    “There is one spot where three separate attacks were carried out,” said Army 1st Lt. William Cromie, a[n] RCP Platoon leader in Alpha Company, who is from New Jersey. The spot Cromie spoke of is a bend in the road a few miles into the valley. Destined Co., 2-503rd, Afghan Security Guard and an element from Cromie’s platoon have been attacked by Taliban extremists at the bend.

    A few weeks prior to the patrol, the RCP found an IED a few hundred feet in front of the ambush point. Cromie’s platoon has found two IED’s since arriving in [the] country three months ago. “I love what I do,” said Cromie. “It’s a very unforgiving job, but the job is extremely rewarding when we find something.”

    Photo – Army 1st Lt. William Cromie, Alpha Company, Special Troops Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, watches his Soldiers, Aug. 15, from an overwatch position as they clear an ambush point previously used by Taliban extremists in Chowkay Valley, Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Brandon Aird.

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    KABOOM: Countering IED attacks

    27 July 07
    By Spc. Mathew Leary
    4th BCT PAO
    .

    Hearing the explosion just around the corner from his vehicle July 15, Army Sgt. Felix W. Bala knew that some of his fellow Paratroopers had just been hit by an improvised explosive device.

    “We were cruising along about to make a turn when all you could hear was the explosion,” Bala said.

    Commanding his driver to quickly take the next turn so they could help their presumably injured comrades, Bala’s truck executed a sharp left turn and pulled up near the damaged HMMWV. By this point, the other vehicles in his platoon had formed a wide perimeter around the blast area. As their truck rolled to a stop, the Soldiers were relieved as they looked back at the truck in question, Bala said.

    “By that time, the guys in the truck were getting out of the vehicle under their own power,” he said. While this IED attack involved Bala and Paratroopers of 1st Platoon, Troop A, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, it is a reminder that for all U.S. servicemembers serving in Afghanistan, the fight against IEDs is critical.

    “The way to cut down on IEDs is to build the relationship between local citizens, the Afghan National Security Force and the [Islamic Republic of Afghanistan],” said Army 1st Lt. Briton M. Crouch, 1st Plt. leader for Troop A, 4-73rd Cav. For this reason, the Paratroopers of the 4-73rd Cav. are headed back to the town of Hassan in Gelan district, the village where an IED went off under one of the trucks, the day after the attack.

    IED-DAY Minus 1.

    Leaders from the 4-73rd Cav. are determined to pursue all leads relevant to the IED attack on Troop A just the day prior to July 16. The return trip to the village is designed to achieve one simple goal–stop further IED attacks. “We are doing a follow-up in the area to garner more support,” said Army Capt. George E. Bolton Jr., commander of Troop A. “You have to work with the people so they will prevent [IED attacks] from happening.”

    As troopers from the 4-73rd Cav. arrive in town, a handful of local villagers begin to fill the streets to see what is going on. After a few minutes, more and more locals enter and begin approaching and talking to the Soldiers, although often neither party can understand the other due to the language barrier. Although not all the conversations can be translated, fortunately there are interpreters with Troop A to facilitate some communication, the fact any talking is taking place is a good sign, Bolton said.

    “They showed up and that’s the first step,” he said. A group of village elders, who are the authoritative figure for Hassan, gather together with ISAF to hold an impromptu shura, a sort of town meeting in Afghanistan.

    Speaking with Bolton and Army Lt. Col. David J. Woods, commander of the 4-73rd Cav., the locals speak their minds about the conditions in their town. They address the security situation and lack of ANSF forces in the area.

    One of the problems facing the developing ANSF in the past is they have not had the capabilities to visit all of the villages in their area. However, as they grow and mature, they are slowly extending their hold over areas of Afghanistan that have been void of any law enforcement for several months, Woods said.

    “They told me the Taliban comes in at night driving through the village to harass and intimidate the people,” Crouch said.

    IED-DAY Minus 2.

    The Paratroopers are preparing to head back to Hassan to again engage the local populace, but this time with the aid of ANSF and District Commissioner Mubaballah, who is the head of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Gelan.

    “This is where we assist the ANSF in their mission,” Bolton said. Mubaballah and ANSF soldiers independently wanted to visit the town, but with their police and military forces spread out on other missions they lacked the resources to travel there. So they teamed up with ISAF to make the trip.

    “That’s part of our role here, to allow the establishment of their government in their own country,” Woods said. “That’s our job, that’s our purpose.”

    ISAF support ANSF by providing the police force the extra manpower to cover most of the district and provides training to the ANP and ANA, showing them standard military techniques and strategies, Woods said. Really, this is the best way to curb IED attacks that injure not only military forces but Afghan civilians as well. Developing a congenial relationship between the people, IRoA and ISAF are the key, Woods said.

    At this shura, ISAF personnel take a back seat as the district commissioner engages the village elders, again encouraging them to work with ANSF and government officials. “When a police chief or government official comes down to see them, it makes the people feel like they are loved and cared for,” Bolton said. The results are evident as the townspeople speak freely about their need for new roads and schools, as well as the threat of Taliban insurgents who plant IEDs on their roadways.

    “The whole thing is for us to separate the Taliban from the people,” Bolton said. “These people are afraid of the insurgency and unsure of their government,” Woods said. “But that’s why we are here, to help them establish those relationships, and show them that the ANSF and [IRoA] are going to give them that sense of security.”

    “By providing that link between the people and their government, while simultaneously distancing the insurgency from the people is exactly the way to slow down the emplacement of IEDs in these remote towns and villages,” Woods said.

    It is evident some form of bonding is taking place as children run up to Soldiers tugging on their sleeves playfully and the villagers and troopers exchange waves and smiles.

    Perhaps that will prevent more Soldiers from cruising along and suddenly hearing that sound no Soldier wants to hear:

    KABOOM!

    Photo – Communicating through means other than talking, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew S. Parrish, mortar platoon sergeant for Troop A, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, demonstrates the art of “high-fiving” to a group of Afghan kids July 16 while visiting Hassan village in the Gelan District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Photo by Spc. Matthew Leary.

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